For more than a year, the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation has been hunting the person whom experts say is one of the most prolific swatters in American history. Law enforcement now believes they have finally arrested the person responsible.
A 17-year-old from California is allegedly the swatter known as Torswats, according to sources familiar with the investigation. The teenager is currently in custody and awaiting extradition from California to Seminole County, Florida. The Florida State Attorney’s Office tells WIRED that he faces four felony counts.
Seminole County, located in central Florida, had two high-profile swatting incidents within the last 12 months, including one targeting a mosque and another targeting a courthouse. Todd Brown, a spokesperson for Florida’s Office of the State Attorney in the 18th Circuit, confirmed the charges against the teen and his extradition. Brown says he will be prosecuted as an adult under Florida law. WIRED is withholding the 17-year-old’s name because he is a minor.
The teenager’s arrest comes in the midst of a nationwide swatting surge. Swatting attacks typically involve someone calling in fake attacks to 911 in an attempt to solicit an overwhelming police response. Since Christmas, swatters have targeted the homes of prominent politicians from both parties, judges handling cases involving former US president Donald Trump, and the director of the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
Prior to these high-profile swats, a relentless campaign from different, potentially foreign, swatting groups targeted hundreds of schools and universities around the US over the past year and a half. Last May, an officer in Danvers, Massachusetts, accidentally fired his service weapon while responding to a school swat. In February, an officer in Saginaw Township, Michigan, rammed his vehicle through the school’s locked door to get inside the building following a swatting call.
According to the Florida State Attorney’s Office, the charges against the California teenager include making false reports concerning the planting of a bomb or the use of firearms, causing a law enforcement response. All charges are described as related to acts of terrorism and showing prejudice based on race, color, ancestry, ethnicity, or religion.
In private Telegram chats witnessed by WIRED over the past year, a person operating the Torswats handle claimed responsibility for hundreds of false reports of bomb threats and active shootings called into schools, politicians’ homes, courthouses, and religious institutions around the US.
Brad “Cafrozed” Dennis, a private investigator who works for high-profile Twitch streamers who’ve been swatted, has been hunting Torswats for nearly two years and actively helping the FBI’s investigation. “It’s a beautiful day,” Dennis says. “I am very relieved Tor will no longer be able to conduct his reign of terror on our schools and public officials just doing their jobs.”
According to records shared with WIRED, Dennis engaged someone using the Torswats handle on a peer-to-peer chatting service called Tox under the guise of ordering a swat in December 2022. By recording his network traffic, the investigator surreptitiously captured the swatter’s IP address along with a username that at the time was unknown to law enforcement. According to Dennis, in January 2023, he handed the evidence to the FBI special agents in charge of Torswats’ case. In emails shared with WIRED, the FBI told Dennis this information was used in subpoenas sent to YouTube and Discord. Court records related to the case against the California teen have not yet been made public.